September 8, 2011
I don’t know about you, but when I think of Ireland, I’m instantly transported to the island’s country side with its emerald-green fields, rolling hills, its beautiful old stone cottages and its dreary weather. I have a friend who lived there and said it did nothing but rain and when it wasn’t raining it was cold and damp, so she had no choice but to move her “office” to her couch and do all of her work in front of the fire. I imagine that this weather was a major contributing factor in the developement of Irish Lace. Well, that, and the efforts of some very “crafty” nuns during the Potato Famine.
The Irish economy was weak to begin with before the famine struck. The majority of Irish land was too rocky to produce anything other than potatoes, and those farmers that were lucky enough to grow other vegetables, had a difficult time purchasing the seeds to plant with. The Ursuline Nuns saw an opportunity to help women earn additional income for their family. The nuns taught those wanting to learn and the craft quickly evolved from a venetian style crochet to its own style. The patterns which were created by the women often became a family tradition and turned into closely guarded family secrets. The wealthy would pay for the fine crochet cloth and thus, the women would be able to help provide for their families.
If you want to see more of this intricate lace work, there’s the The Sheelin Antique Irish Lace Museum in Ireland, which you can see in person, or in a budget friendly look at their online shop. I highly suggest you take a peak. I guarantee you will be amazed!